Pigeon, West Fork - 3. Along Hwy 215 (Upper)

Pigeon, West Fork, North Carolina, US


3. Along Hwy 215 (Upper)

Usual Difficulty IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 200 fpm

Detention Center

Detention Center
Photo of Beau Van Note by Chris McFadden taken 09/10/04 @ 450cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03455500 250 - 1000 cfs IV-V(V+) 01h11m 153 cfs (too low)

River Description

The West Fork of the Pigeon offers several miles of steep class IV and V creeking with clear tanic water and a mix of great boulder and bedrock rapids. A significant step down in difficulty from the Big East Fork, but the West Fork still offers some big complex rapids, all of which can be reasonably portaged. 

The first mile or so is class IV-V rock bouncing depending on flow. The river picks up a cleaner class IV-V character below Detention Center and continues with that character until the last mile where it turns into class III boogie. One rapid is typically portaged. This is a good one to follow a local down!  

The put in is a nondescript pull-out along 215 a ways downstream of the Gargen of the Gods bridge (where 215 crosses the West Fork with the upstream view of a waterfall), and requires a short hike down into the gorge. The takeout is roadside at the confluence with the Middle Fork.  

Chris Bell's Asheville Area Boating Beta Page probably has the best info on the run. See also Leland Davis's NC Rivers and Creeks. Here is a video of most of the run: 


West Fork Pigeon from American Whitewater on Vimeo.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-09-17 13:09:20

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0PutinPutin Photo
0.8Detention CenterPhoto
2.2Haywood County JailPhoto
2.3PortagePortage Hazard Photo
4.0Take OutTakeout

Rapid Descriptions



Photo of Adam Hackenberg by Mac McGee taken 01/07/09 @ 430 cfs

Detention Center

Detention Center

Detention Center
Photo of Unknown by Chris McFadden taken 09/10/04 @ 450cfs

Scout on left. Run right to left, the bottom drop is a confusing hole that will detain. The next drop down has an undercut on left.

Haywood County Jail

Haywood County Jail

Haywood County Jail
Photo of Unknown by Chris McFadden taken 09/10/04 @ 450cfs

Waterfall coming in on the left just before this three stager. Complete with a tricky notch center drop.


Log Sieve Rapid

Log Sieve Rapid
Photo by Mac McGee taken 01/07/09 @ 430 cfs

An old growth long embedded into the rapid makes for one mean sieve. Waterfall coming in on right, portage left. The rapid below this has a stout hole.

Take Out
Confluence of Middle Prong and West Fork of the Pigeon.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
March 3 2012 (2516 days ago)
ericdaffron (154047)
New (3-13-2012) tree all the way across the river two rapids below Detention Center. Easy to duck
under on right at low water but could be a problem at higher flows. Hard to see until you're right
above it. Just take it an eddy at a time after Detention until you see the tree.
June 13 2005 (4970 days ago)
John PilsonDetails
Just for clarity's sake, this strainer mentioned in the post BELOW is a large old growth tree log,
nearly river-wide, and has been there for years. Mandatory portage. According to
"southeastcreekin" on BT, "Be careful it's blind and looks like any other drop on
the river -- but paddling over that horizon line would be almost sure death!!! If you are
unfamiliar with the run...scout everything that is blind until you get past it..its not worth
taking a chance with this one." ....(actually, I've paraphrased his quote slightly to make it
clearer. JP)
March 19 2003 (5787 days ago)
Another river hazard...W. Fork Pigeon in N.C. riverwide death sieve
Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: Mar 20, 2003 02:11 GMT

It's been mentioned on BT previously, but it's worth mentioning again. On the run putting in right
below the Garden of the Gods madness to the place where the road runs right next to the river for
the first time(the obvious takeout), it's about 2/3 of the way down. It's not obvious at all, and
is apparently a relatively new feature. Be careful.